Knockhill: Haslam wins as Byrne tumbles
10 August 2008
Leon Haslam has taken his first win of the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike season after being crowned the winner of a twice interrupted and eventually truncated second race at Knockhill.
A race of many twists and turns that would end after just 14 laps when Shane Byrne suffered a heavy crash whilst defending his lead, the inclement weather and a horrific crash for David Johnson and Tom Grant also played their part in a race that would last only 12 minutes.
The race was scheduled to start at 3.30pm but a heavy rain shower prompted organisers to red flag the start and allow the riders to fit wet tyres to their bikes.
Now correctly booted as they made their way back to the grid, from the off Haslam and Michael Rutter got away best, the Honda rider leading his Ducati rival into the first corner, closely followed by Byrne, Cal Crutchlow and Tom Sykes, the race one winner unable to get quite the jump as he did in the first event.
Eager to make up for his disappointment in the first race, Haslam wasted no time in establishing an advantage over Rutter, who in turn was feeling pressure from Byrne. Eventually the Airwaves Ducati rider moved past on lap four and while Rutter retaliated by re-passing almost straight away, the championship leader was soon back past in second.
Now setting about trying to track down Haslam, Byrne wouldn't get the chance after the race was red flagged following a spectacular crash back in the midfield on lap nine.
Replays appeared to show Johnson's rider-less Maxxis Honda ploughing into the side of Tom Grant's similar SMT machine. Although it isn't clear just what caused Johnson to come off his bike heading into the first corner, the impact was enough to warrant medical attention for both himself and a very stunned Grant. Kenny Gilbertson was also caught up in the accident, the Kawasaki rider falling off in avoidance.
With the race stopped to allow for marshals to clear the circuit and for Johnson and Grant to be attended to, the timing would otherwise turn out to be almost perfect. Indeed, the return of the sun had dried out much of the circuit, the stoppage therefore allowing riders to change to more appropriate rubber.
Reduced to a 20 lap sprint, the race was restarted in the order of where the riders were when the race was stopped. That meant Haslam held the top spot, with Byrne second, Rutter third, Crutchlow fourth and Sykes fifth. Crutchlow, however, would be unable to take up his starting position after diving into the pit lane at the end of the warm-up lap to jump on his slick-shod bike having decided the circuit was destined to dry out quickly. By contrast, the leading riders were settling for a combination of slick and intermediate tyres.
At the third time of asking, Rutter got the best getaway and led into the first corner, with the ever present Byrne slotting into second ahead of Haslam and the fast-starting Karl Harris.
Rutter's hopes faded quickly though when he was overtaken by Byrne out of the chicane, while Haslam soon followed through up to the hairpin. A feisty Harris followed into third place on lap two.
The Yamaha rider, however, was unable to keep tabs on Byrne and Haslam as they quickly pulled away from the field, although Byrne himself was looking comfortable as he put one second between himself and his sparring partner.
However, the ever present gauntlet of backmarkers soon closed things up again as Haslam briefly latched onto the back off Byrne, only to lose out again as they approached another gaggle of riders.
But just as Haslam appeared to be considering a move for the lead, Byrne's Ducati appeared to get away from him under braking for the first corner. With both rider and bike sliding quickly off the circuit, he hit the tyre barrier hard after being flung into the air by the gravel trap.
The race was quickly stopped as the medical team returned to the circuit to attend to Byrne who, it is believed, is shaken but otherwise unhurt. We will provide more information on Byrne's condition, as well as that of Johnson and Grant, as and when we get it.
Despite the unfortunate end to the race, Haslam was duly declared the winner after Byrne was taken out of the results having been considered to have caused the red flag.
His first win for the HM Plant Honda team, it comes after Haslam was forced to revert to his spare bike in this race having been stymied by mechanical woes in the first race.
Rutter found his way back past Harris just before the red flag to be rewarded with a strong second place finish, although there were still smiles all round for the Rob Mac Yamaha rider as he bagged his first podium of what has been a torrid season so far.
Sykes' three-race winning streak came to a slightly lacklustre end with a fourth place finish having struggled to adapt to the damp conditions, although he was still able to hold off James Ellison, the Hydrex Bike Animal Honda getting an awful start before battling his way back up to a still strong fifth.
Simon Andrews claimed his second strong top ten finish of the day in sixth place, although while the hobbled rider was no doubt pleased to see the race finishing early, Crutchlow was no doubt less so having fought his way up to seventh from the back of the grid. The Honda rider was destined to catch the podium runners by the end of the race had it run its full course
Leon Camier finished eighth after another quiet race ahead of Billy McConnell crossed, while Chris Burns took an excellent tenth place on the STP MV Agusta, the Geordie rider scoring victory in the Cup Class too.
Outside the top ten, Steve Mercer, Tristan Palmer, Scott Smart, Guy Martin and Atsushi Watanabe rounded out the point's positions.